NYAS Lecture February 27th: Soul, Snark, Political Economy: The Making of Progressive American Counterpublics
Since the disastrous election of 2016, we have seen an acceleration of longstanding American political divisions. There have been wildly different public takes on the political-economic changes of the late 20th and early 21st century—on rising inequalities, threats to democracy, and the climate crisis. The rise of an increasingly conspiracy-ridden extreme Right, untethered from facts, has led journalists and scholars quite reasonably to focus on this growing threat. But in so doing, they have tended to neglect the opposite phenomenon—the growing tendrils of a new progressive coalition politics that has animated multiple political movements and new policies. My last two research projects–my 14 year study of a wildly popular and shamefully ignored progressive Black radio show, and my ongoing 30 year ethnography of political economy and public culture in New Haven, Connecticut—can help to illuminate the rise of these progressive subaltern American counterpublics organized around race, class, gender, and sexuality. They also help us analyze how these counterpublics function in individuals’ lives, and how they may become hegemonic–may become part of the larger public sphere. Snark and soul have brought us to a political-economic accounting of the United States, and of its relations to the wider world.